(This article is part of a three article series on how to obtain your medical marijuana card. Step one, Online registration may be found HERE.
After completing the last step and arriving at the “Wait for your email” screen, you should receive an odd looking email that looks something like this:
Fortunately, the state of Pennsylvania has created a comprehensive list of every approved doctor in the state, which may be found here. If the website is down (or you found yourself on the “search by zipcode” that offers varied results,) here is the entire file as listed October 30, 2019.
Since none of these appointments are covered by insurance (yet), most practitioners require cash up front. The appointments run from $75 to over $200, however, some doctors work on a sliding scale for those at financial disadvantage.
However, before that step, I highly recommend obtaining letters from your primary doctor as well as the primary specialists you see for your condition stating your diagnosis for one of the qualifying conditions as well as any disability reward letters you may have received.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
Only patients suffering from one of the following medical conditions can participate in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
- Anxiety disorders.
- Cancer, including remission therapy.
- Crohn’s disease.
- Damage to the nervous tissue of the central nervous system (brain-spinal cord) with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, and other associated neuropathies.
- Dyskinetic and spastic movement disorders.
- HIV / AIDS.
- Huntington’s disease.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Intractable seizures.
- Multiple sclerosis.
- Neurodegenerative diseases.
- Opioid use disorder for which conventional therapeutic interventions are contraindicated or ineffective, or for which adjunctive therapy is indicated in combination with primary therapeutic interventions.
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain.
- Sickle cell anemia.
- Terminal illness.
- Tourette syndrome.
In most cases, there should be little resistance towards endorsing a patient towards medical cannabis- however, if you find that your doctor is not cannabis friendly, it may be a good indicator that it may be time to find a new physician. It is difficult, if not impossible, to continue a relationship with a physician if you are at odds as to how best to manage your symptoms. Medical cannabis is still new enough in Pennsylvania that some physicians may not support it out of fear of federal reprisal or they may prefer traditional pharmaceuticals.
(Regardless of the reasons- if you are unable to find even one doctor to diagnose you under one of the above listed conditions, I congratulate you and hope for your continued good health or wish you better luck with a second or third opinion)
Now then, each practitioner seems to set their own prices for initial visit. Most of them are swamped; the wait may be as much as a month or two for your first appointment.
What is Next?
If you are well organized, you should already be in possession of at least one letter (hopefully multiple from all of your relevant specialists, but I like to be over prepared)
You should also have read reviews and called multiple locations to find the best price verses driving distance provider.
Make certain you have copies of your insurance cards, lists of current prescriptions, driver’s license and any tests/diagnosis that you believe help prove your condition to the practitioner you choose. Make certain to read reviews carefully and choose a doctor who seems kind- Anxiety and PTSD patients benefit especially from reading reviews prior to choosing a practitioner.
(For doctors reading this, I believe all the verification necessary should be made by simply calling the specialists of the patients and verifying the qualifying diagnosis. It is not responsible to trigger episodes of PTSD or epilepsy to ‘prove’ a condition. Let the responsibility of proof lie with the diagnosing physicians, not by torturing the patients.)
I have not yet heard of any doctor reject certifying a patient who arrived with all the correct letters, ID, and payment.
After your appointment, you should receive an email that looks something like this:
Congratulations! Now you have the pleasure of paying Pennsylvania $50 to obtain your physical card. Here is the link to make your payment...unless you qualify for one of the discount programs above.
I received my card within a week, it used the same picture as my driver’s license photo and the card is as solid as my license card as well.
After you have retrieved your card from the mailbox, it is time to make your first trip to the dispensary of your choice. That will be the last part of this series: What to expect from your first Dispensary visit. For now, let’s recap the steps of this article.
Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Card Checklist:
- Register as a patient on the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Registry.
- Obtain letters from your doctors and specialists that certify your diagnosis of one or more of the qualifying medical conditions.
- After reading reviews and calling a few offices, Choose a doctor from the Pennsylvania Department of Health list.
- Compile any SSI/SSDI award letters, a list of current medications, your medical history of surgeries and procedures, and copies of any other relevant paperwork to bring to your visit.
- For your visit, bring copies of the letters from your doctor, the above documents, your license, insurance card, and the payment for your certification visit.
- After a hopefully smooth trip to the doctor, await your email from the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program informing you that you may now pay for your card. (You may also call the Help line at 888-733-5595 or constantly check the website daily)
- Pay your $50 online to Pennsylvania (unless you can get it waived)
- Await the arrival of your card by mail.
- Once card is in hand, then make an appointment at the dispensary of your choice!
Although this process is far from simple- hopefully this honest walkthrough will help other patients find the best medicine for their needs.
Although Pennsylvania suffers from shortages and price gouging in our dispensaries, the quality and safety of dispensary cannabis is still preferable to the black market with the inherent risk of arrest, untested product, and potentially dangerous vape cartridges.
With confidence, I find dispensary products to be both safe and far more helpful to my conditions over the prescription products they replaced.
As more patients become registered the need for more dispensaries and suppliers will also increase- which will in turn force our legislature to more quickly accommodate these growing needs.✨